The beta plane approximation, in oceanography and general fluid dynamics, is a simplified coordinate system for the equations of motion where the variation of the Coriolis parameter f with latitude is approximated by
f = f0 + βy
where f0 is the value of f at the mid-latitude of the region and β the latitudinal gradient of f at that same latitude. This formalism is used to investigate both equatorial and mid-latitude phenomena (for which there are slightly different beta plane approximations) where f varies significantly over a few tens of degrees latitude. The beta plane approximation allows considerable simplification of the governing equations and therefore the use of analytical investigation methods. See Gill .
The beta plane equations are obtained by introducing a background stratification into the shallow water equations, expanding them around a reference latitude θ0 with respect to ε~ θ − θ0, and keeping terms up to first order in ". This approximation introduces the horizonal coordinates
x = r0 cos θ0(φ − φ0)
y = r0(θ − θ0)
and expands the Coriolis parameter as
f = f0 + β0y + • • •
where β0 is the beta paramter at the reference latitude. The resulting equations (after Muller )
Image:Img62.png + Image:Img64.png - Image:Img66.png = Image:Img67.png
Image:Img68.png + Image:Img69.png + Image:Img70.png
0 = Image:Img72.png
Image:Img73.png = Image:Img74.png
Image:Img75.png + Image:Img76.png
where (u, v,w) are the velocity components in the (x, y, z) directions, r0 is the mean radius of the Earth, θ0 is the reference latitude, f0 = 2Ωsin θ0 is the Coriolis parameter at the reference latitude, Image:Img81.png is the beta parameter at the reference latitude, ρ* is a constant reference density, δp and δρ are motionally induced deviations from prescribed background fields, and N is the buoyancy frequency.
|This article is written at a definitional level only. Authors wishing to expand this entry are inivited to expand the present treatment, which additions will be peer reviewed prior to publication of any expansion.|
- J.R.Holton. 2004. An introduction to dynamical meteorology, Academic Press. ISBN 978-0123540157.
- Physical Oceanography Index